If you are pregnant you are probably thinking a lot about the upcoming labour and how you would like it to go. The problem is – birth is highly unpredictable; anything can happen. It can be very difficult to accept that you have little control over how the birth will go. Luckily there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of a vaginal birth. This article will explore some of the ways you can take back a bit of control and improve your chances of a vaginal delivery.
Vaginal birthing is gaining popularity among expectant women as a preferable way to bring their babies into the world. Just some of the numerous benefits of vaginal birth include;
– faster recovery time for the mother, lower infection rates, less risky future pregnancies.
– avoiding the potential risks from a c-section; infections, blood clots, haemorrhage, injury to mother or baby during the surgery.
– baby gets an extra coating of beneficial microbes in the birth canal that science is only just beginning to understand, lower risk of respiratory problems.
In many instances, women have little choice in how the birth goes, but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of a vaginal birth and avoid a C-section.
What can you do to increase your chances of a vaginal birth?
- Stay active during pregnancy: Maintaining a moderate fitness routine is one of the best things you can do to ensure maximum chances of a vaginal delivery. Getting fit before pregnancy increases your chances of a vaginal delivery significantly. Obesity is a leading cause of all kinds of birthing complications, whether you deliver via C-section or vaginally. And don’t forget your Kegel exercises!
- Choose your obstetrician very, very carefully: Ask the right questions and you could get some valuable insight into your doctors birthing views, and the likelihood of a vaginal birth. There are obstetricians in South Africa who will only deliver by C-section. Careful questioning may reveal your obstetricians approach. How many C-sections do they do vs. vaginal births? What situations justify a C-section? What is their policy on when to head to the hospital? How long do they allow women to labour before intervening? What is their approach to breech presentation? (Do they try to manually turn the baby before recommending a C-section?).
- Hire a doula: A doula is a childbirth coach whose role is to support the mother (and father) during labour. Studies have shown that women with a doula have fewer C-sections and better birth experiences overall. One study cited a 26% reduced risk of C-section with a doula present. There is also evidence using a doula results in higher Apgar scores, less chance of needing neonatal intensive care and easier breastfeeding too.
- Make sure the hospital/birthing centre policies are supportive of vaginal birthing: Take a tour, spend some time talking to nurses and get a sense of what the general philosophy is. Some private hospitals have an almost 100% C-section rate and hardly even have facilities for vaginal birth. In contrast, other hospitals and birthing centres have fantastic vaginal birth rates and are set up to encourage vaginal birth. If you are aiming for a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) your choice is especially important as many hospitals and birthing centres in SA have strict VBAC policies.
- Do your research: You need to understand what an essential intervention is and what is optional. Generally obstetricians won’t insist on a C-section unless they believe it is absolutely necessary. You still need to understand what situations will reasonably preclude a safe vaginal birth. If your situation is not urgent, you can request to be reassessed after a short time.
- Stick to a varied healthy diet and stay well hydrated throughout your pregnancy: Keeping all your tissues healthy and functioning at their prime will increase the chances that you are able to have a vaginal birth. Your body needs to prepare for labour much like an athlete needs to prepare for a marathon.
- Surround yourself with positivity: Fear sets up a hormonal reaction that is not helpful to the birthing process. Extreme anxiety during labour gets adrenaline going, which reduces contractions and blood flow to the placenta. Luckily there are some things you can do to decrease your anxiety before labour. Find as many positive birthing stories and videos as you can to reinforce your belief that you can have your baby naturally. If you are extremely anxious, cognitive behavioural therapy has been proven to help.
- When the time comes: Try to labour at home for a while. Once you are admitted, your labour progress will be charted and any deviations from the accepted norm may result in a C-section. Avoiding an induction, if possible, will also increase your chances of your natural birth. Although there is still some debate about the relationship between induction and a resulting C-section; there are studies that have found an increased likelihood of C-section. If an induction is optional; rather avoid it.
Doula’s support vaginal birth, but even if you do end up needing a caesarean you will be grateful for the added support. South African medical schemes are slowly coming around to the importance of doula support during labour and some even cover the costs partially.
Part of your research should include prenatal classes. You and baby’s daddy will need to be armed with knowledge about birth so you are able to make informed decisions. It’s difficult to make these decisions at the best of times but when you are in labour, stressed and in pain it’s extra difficult. Prepare for both vaginal and emergency C-sections, just in case. It’s far less scary if you know what to expect.
The main goal is to have a healthy mother and child, by whatever means necessary. Unless you have a medical condition that precludes a vaginal birth; it’s well worth it to try for one. Many women say it is the single greatest experience of their lives.